Top Engineers – Robert Ludwig

The Band Rock Of Ages – Turn Up Your Volume, Now It Rocks!

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Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Most copies of this album do not have a boosted bottom or top, which means that at normal listening levels — depending on how you define that term — they can sound pretty flat. This is one album that needs to be turned up, obviously not to the levels of a live rock concert, but up about as loud as you can until you can get the bass and the highs to come out. We found ourselves adding more and more level in order to get the sound to come to life, and it was playing pretty loud before the sound was right.  

But it’s SO GOOD when it’s loud. Why the hell would you not want to crank it up and ROCK OUT? (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

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  • This vintage Atlantic pressing boasts a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one and has no marks that play or excessive amounts of surface noise, which makes it a very special copy indeed
  • Wall to wall, floor to ceiling Led Zeppelin power – this copy delivers like you will not believe, or your money back
  • A Better Records Top 100 album (along with 4 other Zep titles), 5 Stars in AMG and a True Zeppelin Must Own Classic
  • The Tubey Magical acoustic guitars heard here should be a wake up call to every audiophile that trying to remaster this album is just not in the cards
  • 5 stars: “Jimmy Page’s riffs rely on ringing, folky hooks as much as they do on thundering blues-rock, giving the album a lighter, more open atmosphere…”

This copy has the kind of BIG, BOLD ROCK SOUND that takes this music to places you’ve only dreamed it could go. The HUGE drums on this copy are going to blow your mind — and probably your neighbors’ minds as well.

And what would a Zep record be without bass? Not much, yet this is precisely the area where so many copies fail. Not so here. The bottom end is big and meaty with superb definition, allowing the record to ROCK, just the way you know Zep wanted it to.

The vocals too are tonally correct. None of the phony upper-midrange boost that the Classic suffers from is evident on this copy. The louder Robert Plant screams the better he sounds and the more I like it. The Classic makes me wince. (more…)

Eric Clapton / At His Best – But Is It?

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Sonic Grade: D

This pressing, along with the rest of the series, was mastered by Robert Ludwig. The sound may be as rich and full as we described it years ago, but the tapes RL had to work with were dubs, so the sound is not up to audiophile standards, not ours anyway.

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.

Led Zeppelin / II – Stan Ricker Versus Robert Ludwig

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

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Here is the story of my first encounter with a amazing sounding copy of Zep II.

I had a friend who had come into possession of a White Label Demo pressing of the album and wanted to trade it in to me for the Mobile Fidelity pressing that I had played for him once or twice over the years, and which we both thought was The King on that album.

To my shock and dismay, his stupid American copy KILLED the MoFi. It TROUNCED it in every way. The bass was deeper and punchier. Everything was more dynamic. The vocals were more natural and correct sounding. The highs were sweeter and more extended. The whole pressing was just full of life in a way that the Mobile Fidelity wasn’t.

The Mobile Fidelity didn’t sound Bad. It sounded Not As Good. More importantly, in comparison with the good domestic copy, in many ways it now sounded wrong.

Let me tell you, it was a watershed moment in my growth as a record collector. I had long ago discovered that many MoFi’s weren’t all they were cracked up to be. But this was a MoFi I liked. And it had killed the other copies I had heard in the past.

So I learned something very important that day. I learned that hearing a good pressing is the best way to understand what’s wrong with a bad pressing. (more…)

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Tonally correct from start to finish, with a solid bottom and fairly natural vocals (for this particular recording of course), HERE is the sound they were going for in the studio
  • Drop the needle on So Far Away – it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet still rich and full-bodied
  • 4 stars: “One of their most focused and accomplished albums … Dire Straits had never been so concise or pop-oriented, and it wore well on them.”

*NOTE: On side one, two marks make 5 moderate to light pops at the end of Track 2, Money for Nothing, and 10 moderate to light pops followed by 5 light ticks at the beginning of Track 5, Why Worry. On side two, a tiny mark makes 5 moderate pops followed by 7 light ticks near the beginning of Track 4, Brothers in Arms.

Fully extended from top to bottom with a wide-open soundstage, this is the sound you need for this music. There’s plenty of richness and fullness here as well — traits that are really crucial to getting the most out of a mid-’80s recording like this!

Drop the needle on So Far Away — it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet incredibly rich and full-bodied. The bottom end really delivers the goods — it’s punchy and meaty with healthy amounts of tight, deep bass. (more…)

David Bowie – David Live

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides of this Bowie classic
  • One of our favorite live recordings – a great overview of Bowie’s career through 1974
  • 1984, Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me come ALIVE in performance like you have never heard before
  • A-List players of the day deliver sonic treats, including multiple horn players, multiple percussionists, all-male chorus background vocals, the searing fuzzed-out guitar leads of Earl Slick, piano and Mellotron by Mike Garson, and the amazing Herbie Flowers on bass

*NOTE: On side one, a group of light marks makes about 15 light ticks one-half inch from the end of Track 4, Sweet Thing. On side three, a mark on the edge makes 4 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, Rock & Roll With Me. On side four, two marks make 8 light ticks during the intro to Track 3, Jean Genie, and 8 moderately light to light ticks during the intro to Track 4, Rock & Roll Suicide.

What can we say? RCA vinyl in 1974 was ticky. Most copies of this album are a helluva lot noisier than this one.

When you listen to an incredible copy of this Bowie classic, you will have no trouble picturing yourself in the audience with a front row center seat. And the great thing about a record like this is that you can be in the front row of this very concert whenever you want!

The other top live album is, of course, Waiting For Columbus, and the two have much in common. Most importantly, the songs played live on both albums are consistently better than their studio versions. (This is especially true on the Little Feat album. Little Feat was not a studio band and their live arrangements — with the Tower of Power horns — just murder the studio ones.)

For us audiophiles, the other reason to own a Hot Copy of David Live or Waiting For Columbus is that the sound is much improved over most of the studio albums in which the material was originally found. Have you ever heard a good sounding Diamond Dogs?

But David Live is full of great sounding material from the album. 1984 is much better here than on the original album. Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me also come alive in performance. They rock! (more…)

Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys

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  • Outstanding sound for this Robert Ludwig mastered Capitol Green Label pressing with each side rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or BETTER
  • Tons of bass, smooth vocals, and an overall freedom from distortion characterize the sound of both sides, and that’s unusual because most copies of this record are just plain dreadful
  • Trust me on this one – you’re going to have a difficult and expensive adventure trying to find a great sounding copy of this one on your own
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Although he could be an erratic live performer, for these shows, Hendrix was on — perhaps his finest performances… not only an important part of the Hendrix legacy, but one of the greatest live albums ever.”

(more…)

AC/DC – For Those About To Rock

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  • For Those Who Waited Patiently, we FINALLY have another KILLER copy of For Those About To Rock with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Once again Robert Ludwig delivers the Rock and Roll Power – incredibly big, bold and full-bodied with a massive bottom end
  • For Those About To Rock has wall to wall sound and in-the-room presence like you will not believe
  • “On For Those About to Rock We Salute You, AC/DC’s best album, the case for the band’s talents is finally made with undeniable force and clarity. You want anthems? Here, they abound.” – Rolling Stone

From the moment the title track began, we knew we were in for a real treat. The transparency and clarity are shocking — we heard texture on the guitars and room around the drums that simply weren’t to be found elsewhere, plus tons of echo and ambience. The vocals simply could not be any better — they’re breathy and full-bodied.

The bottom end is Right On The Money — big, beefy, and rock-solid. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Just curious as to why you never point out a Bob Ludwig “RL” pressing?”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

I am an avid vinyl cat and have been all of my life. I am super curious about your vinyl. I have a pretty good ear myself for top-shelf LP’s but I am just curious as to why you never point out a Bob Ludwig “RL” pressing? Or maybe you have and I just have not noticed?

Thanks so much for a response and much respect for what you are doing and selling…

Dana

Dana, we explained it here, in a little commentary we like to call The Book of Hot Stampers.

We give out no stamper numbers, no information about cutting engineers as a rule, although we do break that rule from time to time. Here is an excerpt of a listing for Rock of Ages from way back when:

What We Thought We Knew

In 2006 we put up a copy with with what we implied were Hot Stampers (before we were using the term regularly) on at least one side:

Side One sounds tonally right on the money! This is as good as it gets… Robert Ludwig mastered all of the originals of these albums, but some of them have bad vinyl and don’t sound correct.

I only played side one of the album, so I can’t speak for the other sides, but what I heard was sound about as good as I think this album can have.

There are some truths along with some half-truths in the above comments, and let’s just say we would be quite a bit more careful in our language were we writing about that copy today.

One side is no indication whatsoever as to the quality of the other three, and without the kind of cleaning technologies we have available to us today, I wouldn’t want to make a “definitive” sonic assessment for any of them.

When you play uncleaned or poorly cleaned records you’re hearing a lot of garbage that has nothing to do with the sound of the actual vinyl. (Note that we are joking above: there is no such thing as a definitive sonic assessment of a record, from us or anybody else.)

Ludwig cut many bad sounding records. Roxy Music Avalon original domestic pressings are RL and are made from dubs — and sound like it.  Same with Dire Straits’ Alchemy. Some RL Houses of the Holy sound amazing and some only decent.  It’s the nature of the beast. (more…)

Here’s a Question for Fans of the Modern Heavy Vinyl Pressing

Hot Stamper Pressings of Led Zeppelin Albums in Stock

 

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Before you answer the question we have posed below, start by naming all the Heavy Vinyl records that sound as good or better than Robert Ludwig‘s original mastering of Led Zeppelin II.

Modern engineers tell us they can cut records better now than ever before, with all the bass and dynamics that previous engineers were forced to limit for the cheap tables and carts of the past.

So where are these so-called New and Improved records, the ones with more bass and dynamics?

I have yet to hear one. Perhaps someone can point me in the right direction.

Send your list to tom@better-records.com

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison. (more…)